Friday, December 25, 2009


There is little to beat the feeling of warm contentment when Christmas Day finally arrives. All the bustle and busy-ness seems worthwhile, and you are glad you made the effort!!
Daily pressures are forgotten for a while, and there seems to be goodwill everywhere.
Looking back on the pre-Christmas season, we feel very blessed.

We all have things that are special and important to us at this time of year, and these things may change as we get older. I just love Christmas Eve, and yesterday was no exception. The final shopping and decorating and present wrapping is completed, the house gets a bit of a tidy-up (in preparation for the inevitable Christmas Day clutter), and likewise, the frig gets a clean out to make room for the festive food.

For me, the absolute highlight is the midnight Christmas Service at the Chapel. It is here that the anticipation and the arrival of the day  meet up in a wonderful climax, and you get a brief and intense vision of the way things ought to be all year round!
Looking back on my photos, I think about the things that are important and special to me in the lead up to Christmas.

The first is setting up the Nativity scene.

 We acquired the basis of our Nativity scene 3-4 decades ago, when Lladro was incredibly cheap on Norfolk Island. Over the years we have added a few pieces. This year, we realised there were no cats round the manger, so we found a small and mischievous"Mr Shingles" and another grey cat to resemble Basil.

Some of the more elegant felt birds I made last year, and a couple of my Christmas stockings hang from the mantlepiece.

Making a Christmas pudding is one of the priorities. For years I have tried to emulate my mother's puddings, which were very black and shiny. I never thought to ask her for recipes when she was alive, but my nieces were able to supply me with photocopies of her handwritten pudding recipes.

She wrote that Mrs Beeton's pudding was her favourite, and this is the one I used this year. Mum said that the secret to the black shininess was using beef suet and treacle. I included both.

I had help.

That was important. When we were children, my mother insisted that everyone had to take a turn at stirring the pudding mixture for luck - and maybe to give her arms a rest! Another clear memory of pudding preparation when I was a child was the blanching of the almonds. It was my job to remove the skins.
I am afraid my pudding does not look very black or shiny - but we will see when we cut into it this afternoon!

Yule Logs are another important part of our family Christmas tradition. I use a melt and mix uncooked recipe, and add a few luxurious ingredients which vary from year to year. This year I decorated the tops with turkish delight and pistachios, and silver cachous (which William calls "sparkles.")

Many of my decorations now stay in their boxes. I prefer to spread greenery through the house. It seems to provide a buffer from the glitzy commercial part of the season, and provides a link back to old traditions. We have no holly or ivy, but up in the woodland we have evergreen bush and ochna. 

 Usually at this time of year, only a few red bracts remain on the ochna, and I need to add some red artificial poppies to the arrangements.

But the other day I came on a stand of big bushes just full of the bright Christmas red "blossom," and all that was needed were a few stalks of the silver artemesia.

We all have one or two very special ornaments, and one of mine is this angel which I bought at a Craft Show in Auckland some years ago. She is somewhat understated, but for me she embodies the gentle side of Christmas.

One of the main delights of the season is the generosity of friends and family. This Christmas we have been given two big hams, one smoked by our son Peter! It is beautiful. We had the first sampling for breakfast this morning.

Peter has also supplied us with a shoulder of pork to roast, loads of bacon, some freshly dug sweet potatoes, and two big melons.
Jamie, who gave John the other ham for our family, also dropped in some small water and rockmelons this morning.

There is an enormous bunch of plun (banana) on the back porch, from the Pitcairn Settlers' Village garden - courtesy of Charles, and put there for us by Brett yesterday.

Matt, who worked wth Peter on the hams, brought a beautiful box of vegies, including our favourite red cabbage. Earlier in the week, he sent a box of overripe bananas which I used to bake a plun pilhi (a Norfolk dish.)
Rusty gave us two very large chickens, which will add to our big Christmas dinner tonight. John is baking a lovely loin of pork, and Kim is cooking a turkey.
We have been gathering avocadoes and passionfruit from out the back each day, and have had plenty to give away.

We have not even opened our gifts under the tree yet - but our larder and our hearts are full and overflowing. I do not take that for granted. At this Christmas time, it is my prayer that a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude for God's gifts and provision will remain foremost in our lives throughout the year.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It is something I have wanted to do for years. This year, I decided now was the time. The summer weather was balmy and stable, and I had most of the decorations up. I had quite a store of my crafty creations to put on show.
Kim agreed to help out, bless her.

Invitations went out to come and spend a relaxing afternoon at Devon, with a cuppa or a cool drink and refreshments. I set up a table of some of the things I had been making, in case anyone would like to buy a special gift for someone (which could include themselves.)
On the outside of the chimney, I hung "Joyce's Stocking." It has not had an airing for ages. Some years ago, a gentleman on the island offered the craft people his late wife's needlework supplies, in return for creating something in her memory. This was the result. Nineteen people in total contributed to the making of this giant Crazy Patchwork Christmas stocking.

I decorated our outside self-planted Christmas tree with my little felt wild birds.

I made a few mini-Yule logs and tiny Christmas puddings and choc-coated ginger and packed them into little bags. We had punch and tea/coffee on the table, and various Christmassy nibbles.
About twenty ladies came throughout the afternoon. As you can see, Basil and Mr Shingles enjoyed the party too!

Here are some of the goodies I had put out on the table.

Pretty pussies - from an old Handmade magazine. I really loved making these! Just a peek at some Christmas stockings in front.

"Sugar-frosted" fabric fruits, and little felt "Apple" pincushions.

Bags and cushions

As each lady left, she was invited to take a felt bird from the tree.
William enjoyed helping them to choose one!

It was such a lovely relaxed and friendly afternoon.

Some of us lingered to the early evening, just soaking up the peaceful atmosphere. A husband or two joined us.

Just a few birds remained in the treee. I will have no trouble finding them a good home!

Why not join us next year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When I first came to Norfolk Island, 43 years ago, Christmas was a fairly quiet and low key affair. The most public event seemed to be the arrival of Father Christmas - always in the Fire Engine - to hand out presents to the children at school.
Even today, you could not say it was highly commercialised, but there is a lot more glitter and fanfare than in those early days, and there are many pre-Christmas gatherings. In a community where most people wear many hats, you tend to get involved in several!
Here are just a few pictures of some we have been involved in so far.
Our Tuesday craft group had a lovely lunch at Bounty Lodge, and Joanne allowed us to stay and sew - and drink tea from the elegant china - on our own private verandah all afternoon!

White Oaks celebrated with a Christmas Buffett at the Colonial Hotel.

On Thursday evening, the Chamber of Commerce organised a wonderful Pageant down in the village. I think most of Norfolk came along to enjoy the festivities, the food and the shopping opportunities.

On Sunday evening, before the Service of Lessons and Carols in All Saints, a handful of us had a very pleasant picnic down in the Compound. It was just lovely to relax in the cool of the early evening after a rather hot day!

Tomorrow night will be the Community Carols by Candlelight in the grounds of Government House. This is a very traditional event, in a beautiful setting. But I must confess I have mixed feelings about it. Nowadays, the children do not learn or sing the Christian, nativity- based carols at school, and they simply do not know the carols their parents enjoy singing, and some very valuable community and family traditions have been lost in the name of political correctness. Almost literally, the children and their parents and grandparents do not sing from the same songsheet! And in a community carol singing, there is no sharing or togetherness between young and old. About the only ones both groups know are Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells.
I do not have a great difficulty with everyone celebrating Christmas in their own way, although for me the Christian message of God's gift of Jesus the Christchild will always be central. But to deny our children the right to sing along with their parents the familiar songs that have lasted for generations seems to go against the very values that makes Christmas special! (Pardon me for hopping on my soapbox for a moment. I promise not to do it again for a while.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I thought I would update you on the progress of the two little boys in our life.
It has been just fascinating watching William growing up. He is now 2 years and 8-9 months, has acquired great language skills, and is heaps of fun, with his good nature and sense of humour.
A couple of weeks ago, he had a role to play in a wedding, where his Mum was bridesmaid. We did not actually see him participate, but several ladies have told me it brought tears to their eyes. This was taken when he came to us to be minded after the early part of the reception.

Today he was dressed as Santa Claus, ready to hand out Christmas gifts to his little Daycare friends. Unfortunately, his Santa Cap was far too small for his head, so this Granny rushed to find some red fabric and white fur to make a bigger one - all before breakfast. There is no limit to what I have up in that attic. A piece of red blanket that I found at Waste Management, and some white faux fur that I have been hoarding for at least 30 years both came in handy.

This is the "too small cap."

This is the larger one that I stitched up in a hurry

Meanwhile, the new addition to the family "Mr Shingles" has also been delighting us as we watch his growth and progress. That quiet little bag of bones we brought home nearly three weeks ago is a strong, playful and mischievous bundle. And he is thoroughly domesticated!

We are proud parents, and think he is the most intelligent little kitten ever!

In fact, these two make a great pair!

Monday, December 07, 2009


Lynlee asked if I could make Christmas stockings for her twin granddaughters in New Zealand.  I ased if she would like them to be modern, funky, cute-for-kids, or classic and traditional.

Lynlee opted for classic and traditional, and said she would like them to be heirlooms. But she did say that Sasha and Lydia just love purple and pink, like most other litle girls - so that really gave me something to work with!
I tried not to make them too Christmassy, in case they wanted to hang them on their bedroom walls.

I had great pleasure in getting out some old laces and crocheted doileys, and some pretty fruity fabrics that complement the pinks and purples, and stop them from being too "cloying."

I tried to add some playful touches, with suffolk puffs and button clusters, and thought a few hearts and stars would appeal to little girls too.

The stockings are not quite identical, and I thought the girls would have fun spotting the differences!

The silk ribbon embroidery is something I felt they may appreciate more as they get older.

When it came to the backing, I remembered I had a lovely pair of evening pants (from the Op shop) made from a lovely dark red/pink satiny fabric with black stippling - just perfect- glitzy, but not over the top! As usual, on my first attempt I cut the backing with the toe facing in the wrong direction, but fortunately had enough fabric to cut another.

For the lining I chose a purple cotton print. I have had this piece for years because I like the colour so much, but I knew I had found the right project for using it.

Here they are hanging on our fireplace. I trust they will also look great hanging in Lydia and Sasha's home in New Zealand!

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